Ligeia Mare – Songs We Never Thought Of


Rule one of Ligeia Mare; you don’t talk about Ligeia Mare. At least that’s what Dave Willey tells us: “To me this band is a freak of nature. We make it a point to not discuss the music”. This is spontaneous improvised music that the musicians do not want to analyse, presumably fearing a loss of the spark that led to this strangely compelling body of work. The task of dissecting, disseminating, and generally wibbling therefore falls to the likes of yours truly.

Ligeia Mare is archly named after the second largest liquid hydrocarbon lake on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, a titular nod and a wink that makes me smile in a knowing fashion. I’d imagine “Kraken Mare” is an altogether heavier beast, possibly lurking somewhere in the imagination of one or more of this merrie troupe. That may well be a hint!

Songs We Never Thought Of is an assembled distillation of various “performances/events”, recorded as far back as July 2010. It is also the second Ligeia Mare album, the first was released in September 2012, flying well under this writer’s radar until I sat down to research this piece, and it is an album I now fully intend to investigate.

Songs We Never Thought Of was recorded live, and it must be something in the rarefied air up there in Boulder, Colorado that once in the bloodstream takes these players to places that are as inspirational as they are intuitive. If you are an aficionado of avant music then the players on this album will need no introduction. If you’re not then you probably will not have heard of any of the other musical groupings these players are associated with. Suffice to say, check out Thinking Plague as a starting point.

The two songs taken from the album on the Bandcamp sampler below inform the listener that the clue to the workings of this music is not so much evident in what is played, but is revealed by the space left between the sounds. The wide open spaces of opener Dust And Tides is indicative of this. Initially a vast and sparse soundscape inhabited by percussive rattles and tinkles, the slow breathing of accordion notes is later joined by plaintive trumpet. The piece slowly forms out of the mists led by the keening brass instrument and strange vocalisations. Elongated and menacing low end chords, possibly on the electric piano, herald the slow and ponderous turning of this massive ocean-going vessel of sonics back to its sporadic beginnings, the lonely trumpet keeping watch.

It is often the case that the more esoteric experimental leanings of the collective are brought back down, if not to Earth, at least hugged to its close orbit, by Ron Miles’ lyrical and magical trumpet playing. You can test this for yourself with the second song on the sampler, Mother Tongue.

When the band take on a more conventional melodic guise on Cover Me In Water an eerie contemplative ambience is created by Ron’s trumpet, leading Farrell Lowe’s distorted guitars over Elaine di Falco’s simple but effective piano figure.

Where Is The Moon has bagged the spot of my favourite track on the album. As if slowing down a spool of tape by lightly pressing a finger on the guide wheel of the tape deck, the whole thing is varyingly decelerated to create a woozy vortex, inexorably to disappear down a very distant plughole sometime, way over there. Otherworldly interjections from the disconnected croon of Elaine intoning “All the things we could’ve been” over Ron’s ecstatic trumpet, after a long intro from the same instrument over Dave’s repeated accordion chord cycle, combine with the aforementioned deliberate wow and flutter resulting in the guitar wavering in and slightly out of tune. The sum of all this conspires to transport the listener to another world infused with organic psychedelic hues. Quiet but insistently deft drumming and percussion from Ernie Crews accompany Elaine’s aching voice calling to space, making this a tripper’s delight. Lovely stuff.  Oh, by the way, The Moon is in the sky, and it’s called The Moon…sorry, couldn’t resist! :)

Farrell Lowe plays something called a “prepared guitar”, a description I’ve never fully understood. Surely a conventionally tuned guitar is “prepared”? Maybe an unprepared guitar simply isn’t ready for the task in hand, or is easily surprised? Anyway, Mr Lowe prepares his guitar for battle towards the end of The Old Road Near Home, and I think it wins, charging through the tricksy chaos like a wilful distorted elephant. The song begins with accordion, trumpet and the RMI Electra piano seemingly at odds with one another until a carnival tune emerges from the piles of toys that have fallen from the overstuffed cupboard, opened unexpectedly. Strange guttural voices, perhaps in reverse, hold conversations with jaws harp and piano, before the accordion and trumpet answer at least some of the questions, the good sense only to be undone by rhythms created from staccato heavy breathing. This is crazy stuff, and a bloody good job, too!

Skilfully mastered by avant-rock luminary Bob Drake, the high production values are an added bonus on this fine record, an album that is a veritable pilates course for the mind, if you will.

If you dig this kind of cerebral carousel ride, then you’d probably like Juxtavoices too, reviewed recently on these very, and increasingly bizarre pages. What Martin Archer has crafted with the human voice Dave Willey and his mates have done here, in a parallel universe, up a mountain on the other side of The Pond.

1. Dust And Tides (16:25)
2. Cover Me In Water (8:33)
3. The Beekeeper (2:28)
4. Where Is The Moon (10:35)
5. The Old Road Near Home (10:55)
6. Mother Tongue (7:24)

Ron Miles – Trumpet
Farrell Lowe – Prepared guitar, percussion, voice
Dave Willey – Accordion, bass, percussion
Elaine di Falco – RMI Electra piano, percussion, voice
Ernie Crews – Drums, percussion, jaw harp


Originally posted on Astounded by Sound

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